The Eight Sins of Search Engine Marketing
If you're looking for the fast track to the
top and the bragging rights to go with the the number one search
result then you're time at the top may be limited. Likewise,
if you ignore your audience and focus on technology, you'll shut
the door to a great source of traffic.
However, by avoiding the eight sins of search engine
marketing you'll be on your way to creating a successful flow of
traffic for months or even years to come.
1) Use Flash, frames, graphics or excessive technology
Despite all the books, articles, and
eight years of great examples of how not to develop a web site,
companies and designers continue to ignore the vicious technology
trap. Frames, excessive graphics, flash, and other gizmos are continuously
used without any consideration for the audience at the other end.
If you want to make it difficult for search engines
and your visitors to get at your content, then use plenty of flash,
frames, and other gizmos. That's not to say that these tools can't
be used to spread the message, but be prepared to look at their
use on a case by case basis. The fact is, over-reliance on these
methods may render your web site all but invisible to the major
Unfortunately, even the poor old image can cause
headaches when used excessively (for example, a graphic only splash
or intro page). The simple fact is that search engines such as Google
require content, and more importantly, HTML text. Without it, they
have little or no opportunity to appropriately value your web site.
So, if you want to enter search nirvana, use a
balanced design and remember to keep your web site accessible. Avoid
using technology because it's cool. Every decision should be based
on the audience rather than what the boss likes. If you keep your
audience at the top of your mind, you'll likely produce a web site
that both they and search engines enjoy.
2) Sign up for automated submission
Looking for the fast rack to success
then sign up for a low cost automated submission service by Goodman
Systems. These guys will submit your web site to over 3000 search
engines in only 48 hours. In fact, they'll even submit your site
to search engines no longer in business, all for low price of only
The old cliche if it sounds too good to be true
it probably is wins out here. Not only will these guys get you banned,
but they'll also have the honor of tarnishing your brand in the
So, regardless of how good it sounds, if you get
an unsolicited email to submit your web site for a fee that sounds
too good to be true, do yourself and your brand a favor and press
the delete button. Most email supporting these ridiculous claims
are just out there to depart you from your money.
On the other hand, if you're not shy of a little
hard work, roll up your sleeves and plan to spend hours and months
to do it right. Or if you have the budget, hire a professional to
get the job done right. The results will be worth it and your brand
won't suffer in the process.
3) To cloak or not to cloak
One ongoing debate in the search engine
marketing realm is the cloaking debate. Cloaking is the process
of serving up one page (a well scripted text only page) for search
engines and an entirely different page (one with all the imagery
and technology a person can handle) to us humans. Some proponents
argue that cloaking is a fare way to break through the clutter while
purists and more importantly search engines treat it as cheating.
Based on research, there's no question that cloaking
works (I'm happy to say that this it's not based on my personal
research though). It can produce great results and drive your web
site to the top of the list in a matter of weeks. However, if you
get caught you can kiss your results good-bye and the offending
web site (as well as others) will be sent to the penalty box for
an indefinite period.
So, if you want ongoing success, give them what
they want, great content, and don't try to cheat the system.
4) Submit your web site as many times as you like
As a consultant, I've worked on 100s
of web sites over the years. After countless hours on a long project
there's nothing more I look forward to than announcing my new baby
to the world.
If you're like me and tend to get a little carried
away when you get excited then you'll want to sit down and take
a few deep breaths before you start the submission process. Unfortunately,
the last thing you want to do is get carried away in your moment
of over zealous lust and submit too often. If you do, you may end
up on the wrong side of the fence before the real fun begins.
In fact, you'll want to learn as much as possible
about the submission process for each search engine / directory.
Start with the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) at each site (they
all have them) and learn how to do it right.
You may be surprised what you learn. Every search
engine is different. In fact, some no longer accept free submissions
(this is likely the future for most search engines).
For example, if you want inclusion in to Inktomi
or AltaVista you have to pay for the privilege. Others will allow
a page to be submitted every couple of days. And others like Google
will find your web site even if you don't submit (as long as you
have links from other web sites).
If your patient and occasionally submit new pages
you'll be rewarded in kind with plenty of new traffic.
5) Create a link farm
One great way to build credibility
online, and more importantly, a higher Page Rank at Google is to
create as many links from other web sites to yours. To help you
with your cause, there are companies that will even place your link
on hundreds of web sites around the world including some that are
banned as links farms.
The only way to build long lasting credibility
is to seek out other friendly web site owners and ask for reciprocal
links, or better yet, offer news or articles in return for a link
back to your site. Done correctly, you'll see both your referral
visits and search engine traffic soar.
6) Design in a vacuum
If I have any beefs (I know it sounds
like I have at least eight), it's against those who design corporate
and government web sites for the sole purpose of being cool, different,
or even worse, winning awards. Often, it's explicitly clear that
the web site was created in a vacuum with little or no attention
paid to those who have to use the site.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against artistic design.
There's plenty of room to be different. But if you're going to work
in this medium and design web sites for commercial consumption,
then you need to be aware of certain usability and technical limitations.
If you ignore these differences, you'll likely do both your client
and your audience a disfavor.
As online designers (I do dabble occasionally)
it's your job to have a good understanding of the medium, regardless
of whether it's your first web site or 100th. Often, what works
great on paper doesn't always translate well to the web. In fact,
in many cases it doesn't translate at all.
I've often found that if you create a design that
works for your audience, you'll also end up with a web site that
agrees with search engines. In fact, people and search engines are
both alike. We both want great content. Keep this simple fact in
mind and your web site and your bottom line will reap the rewards
down the track.
7) Throw your old web site away
With almost eight years of history
behind us now, I'm still amazed at how many companies continue to
throw their old web sites away.
In many cases it takes months or even years to
build up quality search engine traffic. However, many companies
continue to throw away old pages, switch operating platforms, file
extensions or make drastic changes to site architecture without
considering their existing traffic.
Why the concern? Well if you happen to remove an
old page or change file extensions without carefully transitioning
the visitor to a new page, you'll likely loose that visitor forever.
The chances are that if the first page they see is the dreaded 404
Error page they'll likely press the back button, and go to the next
The bottom line is that if you're redesigning an
existing web site, you need to pay attention to all of these factors.
8) Have faith that your designer, agency, or web
developer knows all there is to know about search engine marketing
To develop an affective web site that
produces results you'll need access to the skills of a variety of
people and organizations. These days, it's difficult for one person
or even one agency to be experts in every aspect of web site development.
Before you start work on a new project, try to
make sure the designer, agency, or developer is aware of the implications
of web site development on search engines. The worst thing you could
do is assume that they will have have all the necessary skills covered.
In fact, based on my experience with many solo designers as well
as full service agencies, search engine marketing is often an afterthought.
If they don't have the skills in-house, ask around
for a search engine marketing expert who will work seamlessly with
your agency or designer. While it may require a larger team and
more money up front, it will also likely save you time, money and
the headache from having to optimize the web site down the road.
The search engine market is constantly changing. In fact, in the
last few months there has been more consolidation and improvements
in search than the past three years alone. With a renewed interest
in search, the evolution is likely to continue.
While we can't be positive what the future will
hold, we can tell you that if you avoid these eight deadly sins,
you'll be in a good position to benefit from the results.
Contact us to learn
how to put search engine marketing to work for your web site today.